Off To the Factory

Today broke open with a slightly hung over Nick singing Chinese top 40 hits as he wandered around the room searching for nothing in particular. Did I mention that we’ve been sharing hotel rooms this whole trip? It looks like that’s going to be standard operating procedure for the next couple of weeks. For a guy who’s used to having at least a little down time, this may be one of the larger challenges of the trip.

I spent a fair amount of time early in the morning catching up with work back home and putting out a couple of small fires (some things never change). Then Nick and I sat down for another monster breakfast buffet that included at least 8 things that I couldn’t identify if my life depended on it. But as always everything was pretty tasty.

David picked us up around 9:30 and we were off to the factory in Ningbo. At this point I’ll do my best to explain what it’s like to ride in a car in China. The traffic management philosophy here can be described at best as a high speed experiment in chaos, and at worst as a poorly executed mass suicide pact. It’s like everyone wants to crash into each other, but is willing to let the other guy hit them first. Want to turn around in the middle of a 6 lane highway at rush hour? No problem. Just hit the brakes, throw on the turn signal, and cross 4 lanes in a slow 9 point turn. Want to turn right from the left lane? Pretend you’re the only one on the road and go for it. I can’t tell you how many times I could identify the bugs squashed on the front of the car pointed straight at me. Yet somehow it all works out. It’s like Cirque de Soliel without the budget.

The drive to Ningbo is about 3 hours, and by the time we get there I am ready to get to work. There are a number of things I want to get accomplished at the factory, and this is our only day there. As soon as I got into the building I was going full speed ahead. By 2:00 Nick & David realized that I had no intention of stopping for lunch and had the factory guys throw something together for us to eat as we discussed new colors, seating systems, and other adjustments to the kayaks. By the time 6:00 rolled around I had a half dozen new color samples, an equal number of confirmed design changes in the boats, and we had ironed out a tentative deal for how the distribution deal would work for building the Coastal Kayaks brand for the US market and beyond. Not bad for half a day’s work.

Midway through the day David’s assistant Winnie joined us, and she would stay with us for the rest of the evening. Her English is quite good, and she seemed to enjoy explaining what’s going on around me a bit more than the guys do. Nick and David have a tendency to launch into long discussions in Chinese that leave me searching for clues as to what they’re talking about in their inflection, facial expressions & gestures. With Winnie in the room she would at least recognize that I was lost and try to let me know what the conversation was about.

After getting all the samples done and the designs sketched out we loaded back into David’s car and trusted our lives to the traffic gods and headed into downtown Ningbo for the night.

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One response to “Off To the Factory

  1. It was great to hear from you again! Not so sure that I really wanted to hear about the drive, but it sounds like you are making great progress and having an interesting time.
    Try and send us updates everyday – it is fun for me to hear what you are doing and about your new Chinese friends.
    It is a little odd to think of you on the other side of the world.
    What do the Chinese think about the tragedy in Japan and how will it affect them?
    How is your room mate doing? That would be tough – the lack of down time would be very difficult. XOX

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